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What the voters want: Issues local bets should address

LEGAZPI CITY --- Corruption, honesty, integrity, health, and environment are among the top local issues that Albay voters are closely looking into candidates running for various local posts in the upcoming May midterm election.

Albay residents in interviews have expressed mixed reactions on what local issues would they expect from local candidates, including those running for congressional seats.

They said they would like local candidates to also address these other issues: patronage politics, economy, tourism development, illegal drugs, child and senior citizens’ rights and protection, and gender development.

Merlita Tariman, housewife and a freelance writer, said: “For the candidate to veer away from the traditional practices, I think they should possess integrity, first and foremost. Then they should present to the people their clear vision for the future and how they can pursue it within a three-year timeline -- with concrete results.”

“He should possess management savvy. Whether he wants to be an executive or a legislator, he must show a reliable amount of capacity to serve the people with an eye for good management. Capacity to act as a leader can earn votes away from the arrogant vote buyer.”

Dominador Barrameda, a former government prosecutor and law professor, volunteered: “First and foremost we need honesty and integrity [from the candidates]. Common and traditional election woes like vote buying and harassment are likely to happen in local than in national election. The drama is bound to happen in localities.”

Barrameda said he would support local candidates with platform on health, public sanitation/environment, traffic problem, tricycle driver discipline, local tourism, and most importantly, drug problem.

Rolly Esguerra, a retired police colonel, said: “My stand is focused on Integrity, the people now need genuine leaders who can address our concern, even how small it is dapat hwag na tayo mapeke sa ating iboboto - kawawa naman yung mga tunay na magagaling na ayaw tangkilikin ng mga tao because of personal whims and monetary consideration sa mapeperang candidato na proven na magnanakaw.”

Fr. Rex Arjona, executive director of the Social Action Center (SAC) of the Diocese of Legazpi, disclosed: “In our voters education workshops, which we call SILAG (Social Initiative for Local Accountability in Governance), we help communities come up with local people’s agenda to be presented to candidates during the local candidates fora. In post-election, these will be the agenda as well of our participation in the local development councils and the monitoring election promises. We hope to be able to conduct more than a hundred of these vote-education workshops to come up with collated people’s agenda for municipalities, cities, districts, and the province.”

James Calisin, former Albay vice governor gave his personal opinion: “Any political leader who spouses tourism development as a flagship development program will be articulating the mother of progress and development; it’s an all-in-one development package that carries with it infra, employment, health, cleanliness, beautification, safety, and security needs.”

Irene Abarca, entre-Pinay executive director, has this to say: “I will push for a local candidate that focuses on health issues. The budget for health should be raised and all constituents should be given equal access to all public services. The gender and development code in our locality was taken for granted and set aside by the concerned committee in the Sangguniang Panglunsod. Not all senior citizens are given what is due them based on the Magna Carta.

Integrity and honesty in public service is a must for a transparent government but sad to note that this is not present in most candidates, she added.

Children’s fund should also be included in the candidates’ agenda to protect the rights of children and to sustain their needs if they are neglected by the family, Abarca said.

“What issues matter in the local race? Economic justice: TRAIN Law is a big burden to the poor but to the rich, it is an incentive,” Vince Casilihan growled.

“Impunity against legitimate dissent. Corruption in all levels of the bureaucracy that spawn poor public service and dismal delivery of already scarce basic social services. These issues are true also at the national level. But in the local scene, traditional politics remains visibly dominant,” he added.

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